April 22nd, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments
The musical maturation of myself and my friends came during a period hailed as the ‘garage rock revival’. It was the early 2000s. There was no war, the American economy was in good shape, and bunch of badass new rock bands like The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines, and many more were bringing rock back from the dead. The music wasn’t ‘alt’ or what was then known as ‘modern rock’, but rather, these bands looked towards the great rockers of the past like The Velvet Underground, Television, The Stooges, and The MC5, and they made something modern and interesting of their influences. You probably remember it, unless you’re in your teens now or younger.
At the time, all these bands seemed so cool and cutting edge – in retrospect, much of it was a lot more polished and accessible than most of today’s more ‘far out’, experimental indie rock. In any case, they clearly ushered in a new interest in rock music that would then morph into the indie rock of today through the changes brought about with the popularity of bands like Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Bon Iver, and, of course, many more.
In the course of indie rock’s relentless forward drive, some bands managed to keep pace, while others either got left behind or just lost in the shuffle. The Ponys were a great band from Chicago that attracted some attention back during the garage rock revival and apparently hit their popular peak as late as 2007 with the release of their third album on Matador before taking an ill-advised two years off. While their sound and the production of their albums sounds very much from that time, they were always a lot more interesting than many of their peers. Their sound had some great distinguishing features, like the booming voice of Jered Gummere and their spiked, almost-shoegazey guitar sound. Unfortunately, they fell into the category of bands that seemingly got lost in the shuffle. Today, I’m not sure how many of my friends and music-oriented acquaintances would even recognize their name. No one ever seems to write or talk about them. And today they no longer exist, with frontman Gummere now leading Bare Mutants, and guitarist Brian Case a member of Dissapears. I don’t know what the other members are up to.
So since nobody’s talking about them anymore, I’m going to talk (or write) about them, because they made some really cool music, most notably their first album, Laced With Romance. While all their albums are pretty good, Laced With Romance, produced by Jim Diamond (best known for his work on The White Stripes‘ first two albums), is the one that packs the most punch (and reverb). On later albums they sound less interesting, less assured, and their songs less urgent, exciting. Laced With Romance burst out the gate with the tongue in cheek “Let’s Kill Ourselves” and kills it all the way through the Phil Spector put-on “Fall Inn”, the red light “Chemical Imbalance”, and the snarky “I Only Love You Because You Look Like Me”. These songs are kind of classics, or at least feel like it.
Admittedly the album doesn’t have that bareness that’s kept their peers’ albums like Get Behind Me Satan and Room On Fire from aging badly. And, if released today, it would sound just not quite right. But it’s still a great album, especially if like me, you look back on that time and place in rock music fondly.